Crozier did a good job for ITV, but his exit leaves questions
A view from Gideon Spanier

Crozier did a good job for ITV, but his exit leaves questions

Adam Crozier liked to say turning around ITV was never as hard as running Royal Mail pre-privatisation, writes Campaign's head of media.

The former Football Association and Saatchi & Saatchi boss leaves ITV in much better shape than when he arrived in 2010.

ITV is now less reliant on fickle advertising as he has invested in international programme production, although profits still remain weighted heavily to the fortunes of the UK ad market.

The share price has quadrupled and the company is paying dividends again.

He also leaves a good bench of executives including Kevin Lygo, the director of television, who impressed on his debut at last autumn’s ITV advertising upfronts, and Kelly Williams, the managing director of commercial.

Crozier had good luck as he arrived at the bottom of the ad recession, when ITV had already made deep cuts, and at a time when high-end TV was experiencing a renaissance globally.

Yet he pushed – and, importantly, delivered on – a clear strategy to reduce dependence on advertising by developing ITV Studios and acquiring other producers such as Talpa, maker of The Voice, and Mammoth, maker of Poldark.

On the broadcast side, his team made some smart commissions such as Broadchurch, Victoria and Mr Selfridge and kept the faith with I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!  and The X Factor.

ITV managed to stem the fall in viewing on its main channel and charmed advertisers.

Archie Norman, the former chairman who recruited Crozier to ITV, recalled last year that when he arrived in 2010 the broadcaster gave a good impression it didn’t care about its most important customers: the advertisers.

The upfronts gala, launched in 2015, has become an important fixture for ITV’s ad sales team.

Crozier, a former chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi in his youth, also deserves credit for his canny, behind-closed-doors negotiations with media agency groups.

ITV is widely thought to have done well out of its 2014 deal with Omnicom and its 2016 negotiations with Dentsu Aegis Network.

Yet there are questions about Crozier's exit:

Why is there no successor in place when his departure has been well trailed since the start of the year?

Drafting in Sir Peter Bazalgette, the chairman, as executive chairman on a temporary basis, revives memories of the troubled period when Michael Grade held that role.

ITV says its succession planning is well advanced.

If nothing else, this limbo period is a chance for Ian Griffiths, the long-serving finance chief who takes temporary charge, to prove himself.

Ex-Endemol boss Sir Peter is well qualified to run ITV, if "Baz" appointed himself.

Did Crozier lack a roadmap for where ITV goes next?

He and Norman had a five-year strategy with targets and key performance indicators that they laid out in each set of results as they progressed.

But there was not a new plan articulated after 2015.

The status quo looked pretty good as the TV ad market boomed – up 6% in 2014 and again in 2015 – and Crozier kept buying production companies.

Then Brexit happened, sending the ad market and ITV’s share price sliding.

Crozier may have been expecting a takeover bid from a predator such as Liberty Global, but his departure shows he is fed up of waiting.

His failure to hit EBITA profit targets last year, resulting in no payout for that element of his bonus, was likely to have been a sore point.

The great, long-term question is how does ITV, still a free-to-air broadcaster at heart, navigate the structural shift to on-demand viewing?

Crozier's strategy of increasing revenues from online, pay and interactive boosted the top line, but it didn’t result in a transformation of the business.

That is a challenge that his successor must tackle.

Crozier was chosen ahead of an unnamed US TV executive for the ITV job back in 2010.

It would make sense if ITV looked to an outsider, perhaps even beyond the UK.

And what about Crozier’s next move? It is hard to believe that a quiet life beckons for a man who loves turning around businesses – and being well paid for it.

Topics